Despite Shutdown, FCC’s First 5G Spectrum Auction A Success


There are plenty of dark offices for yet another day at the Portals, home to the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission. Yet, there’s a team of diligent staff, getting paid for their services, who have been working hard to ensure that “Auction 101” was a success.

The auction, which will provide spectrum in the 28 GHz band for 5G wireless services, just ended. And, by all means, it was indeed a success.

Bidding in the Commission’s first auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses has concluded under the simultaneous stopping rule.

This puts to an end Auction 101, which raised in gross bids a total of $702,572,410 — with a total of 2,965 28 GHz UMFUS licenses won.

A total of 175 rounds were seen in the auction.

The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) and the Office of Economics and Analytics (OEA) will now release a public notice next week that specifies the deadlines for
payments and long-form application (FCC Form 601) filing and gives details for other post-auction procedures (the Auction 101 Closing Public Notice).

Each Auction 101 qualified bidder will be sent a copy of the Auction 101 Closing Public Notice along with an individualized confidential letter providing detailed information regarding its payment obligations.

WTB and OEA also will release a public notice next week that announces the upfront payment deadline and bidding start date for Auction 102. Each Auction 102 applicant with an application deemed complete will be sent separately a copy of the public notice announcing future dates and deadlines for Auction 102.

“The successful conclusion of our nation’s first high-band 5G spectrum auction is a significant step toward maintaining American leadership in 5G,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. 

But, he added, the Commission can’t afford to rest on our laurels—and won’t.

“The FCC will continue to aggressively push more spectrum into the commercial marketplace,” Pai added. “Our 24 GHz auction will begin soon, and we will then hold an auction of three more spectrum bands later this year.  By making more spectrum available, promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and modernizing our regulations—the three components of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan—we’ll ensure that American consumers reap the substantial benefits that will come from the next generation of wireless connectivity.”

Ari Meltzer, a Partner with Wiley Rein LLP, and Rick Engelman, an Engineering Consultant at the D.C. communications law firm, both believe the auction appears to have been successful in many aspects.

“The Auction 101 results provide a clear indication that the wireless industry views millimeter wave spectrum as an important part of our country’s 5G future,” Meltzer said.  “From Honolulu, Hawaii to Fulton, Illinois, bidders continued to recognize the need for more spectrum to satisfy our nation’s growing demand for wireless services.”

Engleman added, “It is clear that bidders placed real value in the 28 GHz spectrum.  The FCC received numerous bids for most licenses, with bids reaching prices that rivaled, and in some cases exceeded, those reportedly paid in private 28 GHz transactions.”